I’ve just started reading Joseph Myers’ book The Search to Belong, and I’ve found it really helpful so far in helping me think through issues of community and belonging in the church we’re planting. I want to blog through the book to generate some more conversation around the issues.
Myers takes the first chapter to outline several “myths of belonging.” These commonly-held beliefs about what creates intimacy and community among people are:
- More time = more belonging. Not necessarily, it appears. One can experience a sense of belonging through annual events focused around common interest, for example.
- More commitment = more belonging. Again, not necessarily. A significant relationship is not always the same thing as a committed relationship. Commitment by itself does not produce community.
- More purpose = more belonging. Getting people organized around a common purpose or passion does not guarantee that they will connect.
- More personality = more belonging. Sometimes we assume that some people are “wired” for community <cough>extroverts</cough>, but this simply isn’t true. Oftentimes the most outgoing among us are the also the loneliest. People of all personality types are capable of developing deep connections with others.
- More proximity = more belonging. People living near each other, while definitely making it easier to connect with others spontaneously, does not in and of itself create a sense of belonging and community.
- More small groups = more belonging. Just because people are getting together on purpose doesn’t mean relational connections are being made. Having small groups does not necessarily lead to people having a sense of belonging.
Myers then introduces us to the main thesis of his book, that community is multidimensional. That we belong to each other on different levels. Building on the work of Edward T. Hall, Myers proposes that we could perhaps think about community and belonging according to four “spaces:”
“These four spaces communicate how we belong to each other,” Myers says. “This conversation is about recognizing, describing, and validating (or invalidating) the ways in which we build healthy community and employ specific spaces to communicate belonging.”
A few questions for discussion:
- Which of the above myths have you fallen for or seen employed? Where would you push back a bit?
- Does the language of public, social, personal, and intimate space resonate with you? In what ways have you experienced those kinds of “spaces of belonging?” How would you describe each?